Keep Liberty In Our Library: An Open Letter to Mayor Melendez of Windsor

Dear Mayor Melendez,

I am writing to express my concern regarding efforts to restrict the freedom of your residents that wish to participate in programming at the Clearview Library. After watching events unfold over the last month, it appears that you and some local officials are attempting to ram through a particular point of view over the civil liberties of our neighbors.

Freedom and liberty are the bedrocks of our society. As elected officials, you have a duty to protect all viewpoints, even those that may make some feel uncomfortable. While I may personally have no interest in attending the Drag Queen Story Hour, I also recognize that the Clearview Library District is chartered with offering diverse programming to all parts of our community, and understand that not all library services and events must appeal to a majority of residents. With a Facebook Event RSVP that exceeds the capacity of the library’s large meeting room, a significant level of interest has been met to justify this programming. If no laws are being broken, and no hate is being advocated, then it is up to you as an elected official to protect its freedom and respect its right to seek programming and resources.

Suppose the library heeds your mayoral advice and cancels the event: should they then proceed to ban all programming that is mildly controversial? Shall we strip the library of all books and movies that may contain people dressed outside of their biological gender?  If a biological man walked into the library wearing a dress, should he be barred from entering? Do we hold the same standard against women wearing outfits that challenges the Town Board’s definition of “modesty”? Shall the library also ban resources that do not conform to the moral view of current town leadership? Should the library require approval from town and school boards before community groups/and or political clubs can gather?  Is there a similar policy in place for our Rec Center and parks? By publicly placing your elected thumb on the scale, you are creating a slippery slope on the path towards repression and government censorship, resulting in potentially costly legal challenges for our town.

As the father of two young girls, I can sympathize with parents that object on the grounds of avoiding exposure to their children.  However, the consequence of participating in a free society is that our kids will likely encounter people and ideas that are in conflict with their parents’ world-view.  Just last month I took my 5-year-old to an Eagles game and had to spend the first period explaining what “sucks” means and why the crowd was chanting those words.  The reality is that parents are challenged with turning those occurrences into teachable moments. We must also respect those parents that see this event as an opportunity to further their child’s exposure to the gender identity conversation. Of course, to parents that wish to limit exposure, there remains the obvious remedy: do not attend. It is not the role of government to shield the community from objectionable viewpoints, especially when suppressing the rights of others.

I challenge you and our leaders to do what’s right, rather than simply pleasing the population of those aligned with your ideals. Please do not abuse your stewardship by seizing the power of society and administering a top-down implementation of your morality, especially at the expense of law-abiding groups in our community. These actions are far more damaging to our communal fabric than any single library event.

Sincerely,

Jeromey Balderrama

Be a custodian of liberty in our community. Vote yes on 6c.

As the son and husband of public educators, I can attest first-hand to the importance of schools, but lest we forget the critical development in the first years of a child’s life. These years are so important that many parents put their careers and livelihoods on hold to ensure their children have the best development opportunities. What other public institution, besides the public library, is as committed to resourcing parents and facilitating this crucial stage? After volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, it becomes evident just how much of a head start reading gives our young children.

Libraries give people access to tools, materials, and resources that are not affordable or practical to individually own. When my parents were growing up, it was encyclopedias and reference materials. For me, it was PC’s and fast Internet. Today, it’s maker spaces with 3D printing, electronics tinkering, video and audio production. Do you remember when you unlocked a hidden talent that you never knew, discovering a passion changed the trajectory of your education, your career, your life? What resources were made available to you at the time?

We live in an age where we’ve never had more convenient access to the world’s information, or the ability to communicate across vast distances, yet somehow many feel more isolated. Like all of us, our youth are looking for ways to feel more connected, maintain community, with healthy in-person relationships. The library is also evolving to serve that need with designated gathering and collaboration spaces for groups of all ages to feel welcome.

Our community is blessed with a library that not only embraces this mission but excels at it. The Clearview staff demonstrates resourcefulness in offering rich, diverse, accessible programming for all ages – but they are at their limits. Originally built for a town of 10,000, the current facility struggles to keep up with a district that’s tripled in size.  Paramount programs like Girls Who Code and young children storytimes have to turn people away due to space constraints. Areas cannot be converted for these new needs without taking away meaningful space from another group or purpose. In its landlocked location, there’s no choice but to relocate to a larger space that is designed to serve our evolved needs.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.” We need to demonstrate wisdom, accept the growth, and be bold in supporting our next generations. As a fiscal conservative that relishes a limited federal government, I am also a fierce localist that realizes we each must do our part to shape our community. These principles don’t need to be at odds. There is much debate about “need” vs. “want”, but we really need to talk about what our community deserves.  I’d like to think we’re a virtuous citizenry that takes care of each other, providing adequate facilities to serve our growing community,safeguarding for the future. A localist can be pro-schools, pro-safety, pro-water and pro-library, all at the same time. Being proactive and investing now ensures we maximize our return, rather than wait years and only get 80% while spending the same amount.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” -James Madison.

Be a custodian of liberty in our community. Vote yes on 6c.

Drumming to support St. Jude’s

I’m honored to be taking part in the Drumming Up Hope Foundation’s 3rd annual Drum-A-Thon to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals.  On Friday, May 25 at 6 pm, I’ll be doing my part to carry on the 81 hours of continuous group drumming over 4 days, and am looking for generous souls to sponsor me in this cause.  100% of your donation will go towards St. Jude’s Children Hospital.  Any amount, no matter how small, will go a long way towards supporting this great cause.

Donate $10 – Request A Drum-along Song

While drummers are taking various approaches to their hours, I am dedicating my time to playing along with requests made by donors. For every $10 you donate, you can request any song and I’ll add it to my drum-along mix and will send you a video later on if you’d like.  Do you have a favorite song that has an awesome drum part? Perhaps you have a song that you’d like me to give my take and provide a drum remix? Maybe you’ve always wanted to hear a heavy drum remix to one of your favorite Disney songs? You could even just mess with me and throw me a curveball in the form of a classical song – I’ll play anything you’d like!

I only ask two things of your request:

  1. That it clocks in at less than 5 minutes or so (no In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida unless you’re willing to donate $40)
  2. That there’s a clean version of the song since the event is family-friendly.

Use the button below to donate and write your song request in the “Special Instructions” or email it to me at romeyinfc [at] Gmail [dot] com.  If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, please email me and we can set up alternate arrangements.

[Removed the button since this is now over – thank you to all those that helped!]

Also, I’d love for you to come out and join me at the Drumathon at Thunder Mountain Amphitheatre in Loveland. Admission is free and I’ll be there Friday, May 25 from 6pm-7pm, but the drumming start 10 am Thursday, May 24 and carries forth through Sunday, May 27 at 7 pm. Bring your own ear plugs!

Thank you so much for your support! I’m super pumped for this awesome event!

Why Google Chat won’t fix messaging

Exclusive: Chat is Google’s next big fix for Android’s messaging mess

The fact that they’re looking to fix Android’s messaging mess and not everyone’s messaging mess is why this will probably fail yet again.

Real-time messaging (be it SMS or real-time chat) is an absolute cluster, not for lack of innovation, for an inability to reconcile the needs of the users over each company’s own goals, resulting in some very draconian restrictions.

I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts for well over a decade, in daily conversations with my wife and family.  We have a basic set of needs:

  1. Enabled for real-time chat
  2. Ability to receive and respond to notifications across both desktop and mobile phone
  3. Group chat capability
  4. Ability to share pictures and other media
  5. Have a large user base and a lower barrier to entry for new users

Hangouts has been solid but also is neglected by Google.  Now their latest focus is to shift Hangouts for Enterprise use and deprecate it for consumers.  Supposedly they were steering everyone to using Allo, and I remember being very excited its pending release – and then it came and underwhelmed.  What made Allo fail out the gate was the fact that it was tied to your phone number and only one device, so you couldn’t use it from a tablet, let alone a desktop.  Over a year later Google came up with this jenky workaround to have your phone forward chat notifications to a desktop, but worked unreliably and required you to have the app open on your phone.  Given they hampered a key feature of Hangouts, it all but wrote it’s failed destiny and is why it hasn’t been adopted.

I don’t see much difference with Chat. From the article, it seems to be driven by whether carriers will pick up the protocol. That’s well and good to get Android the same features that iMessage enjoys on iPhones, but does little for anyone else on the desktop or using an iOS device. By limiting their goals, Google will once again doom themselves to failure.

I’ve looked a lot of other messaging tools, but each one has its own set of problems. iMessage is designed to promote the sale of Apple devices, which is why you won’t ever see a Windows or Android client (removing #2 and #5). Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp are all great apps with a lot of functionality but don’t have a big userbase and it’s hard to compel people to switch (with the caveat that WhatsApp is big for my international friends).  Facebook Messanger comes closest in terms of offering all the features, but feels really slimy and intrusive to use – and yes, I know that Google reaps the same benefits from inputting my personal information, but you’ve seen a lot more callous coming from Facebook lately.  Skype has been pivoting more into the messaging space, but they’ve had a bad spam problem and I’m not convinced people’s Skype contacts reflects all of their everyday chat contacts. The only time I go to Skype is to make a video call.

If Hangouts vanished overnight, I think I’d reluctantly migrate most of my activity to FB Messager.  It’s frustrating that Google is one few companies that has the clout and wherewithol to tackle this problem, but they’re hampered by their own blinders.  Until then we’re just confined to the ticking clock of neglected consumer Hangouts.

Seeing Hamilton

After over two years of falling in love with this musical through the Original Broadcast Cast Recording, Bethany and I were lucky enough to be able to see Hamilton on their traveling tour through Denver.

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The fact that we were seeing Hamilton didn’t really set in until we were sitting in the theater and seeing the set.  I was really anxious to see whether the live performances would invoke the same emotional responses that I got from listening to the album (and I’ll freely admit that I cried the first time I heard Dear Theodosia and still get emotional when I hear Yorktown). I was also curious just how much my internal rhythm would be thrown off with the traveling cast, after being conditioned with the rhythm of the original cast performing the musical in a recording studio.

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It’s important to note that the Soundtrack is basically the entire musical. You can count on 1 hand the lines of dialog that aren’t on the recording (minus a song that was intentionally left off as an Easter Egg for those who attend the show – but trust me, that song doesn’t take away from the musical experience.

I’m happy to say that the performance was everything I had hoped for. It delivered every bit the passion, enthusiasm, and character that was present in the recordings.  The visual elements, however, added a whole other perspective that couldn’t be conveyed in the over 200 times I’ve listened to the soundtrack.  There are some amazing comedic elements that are portrayed through body language and choreography.  The other thing that took me by surprise was the transitions between songs, which helped give a sense of just how much time and emotion carried over to the events in the next song.  For example, the Cabinet battles seemed to come out of nowhere and really drove home the fact that Hamilton and Jefferson were constantly at odds with each other. Also, the way Say No To This drove straight into The Room Where It Happens clearly depicted the tension Hamilton was feeling as the pressure was building.

Before the show, Bethany and I set an over/under on the number of times we’d cry during the show. I set my number to at least 4 times and blew that out of the water with getting teary-eyed at virtually every other song. The performances that were emotional for me included:

  • My Shot (caught me by surprise, probably tears of joy)
  • Satisfied
  • Wait For It
  • That Would Be Enough
  • History Has Its Eyes on You
  • Yorktown
  • Dear Theodosia (this one pretty much always cues waterworks)
  • Take a Break (depicting just how badly turning down the Schuyler Sisters weighed on Hamilton)
  • One Last Time
  • Stay Alive – Reprise into It’s Quiet Uptown = Bawling like a baby
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

One other thing that caught me off guard was just how many people weren’t really aware of Hamilton, the story, or the soundtrack. Granted, the Denver Center of Performing Arts wanted to reward season ticket holders with first offering of the tickets (which is why we got to go, through the generosity of Bethany’s parents), but the flip side of that were a lot of theatre fans that really knew nothing about Hamilton except for the hype around it.  During intermission, I overheard one guy saying “I didn’t expect to be this much hip-hop”.   I think there were other people there who knew it was culturally significant, but again probably didn’t take away as much as they could.

If you are lucky enough to get to see Hamilton: please, please, please listen to the soundtrack a few times through, especially if you’re not accustomed to rap.  There is so much depth and richness, as well as historical references depicted in the songs, making it easy for it to fly in and out of unaccustomed ears.  There is so much information packed into each song that it makes it very hard to take it in.  In fact, after listening to the soundtrack, check out a great Podcast breaks down all of the backstory and historical references in each song: The Hamilton Podcast on Graphomania

Lastly, if you’re a Hamilton fan and have not had the opportunity to see it live, please don’t fret. I know it’s easy for me to say, but I sincere that while seeing it live offered new insights and enhancements, it wasn’t world-changing in my appreciation of Hamilton. The theatre that’s playing in your mind while listening to the songs does a great job of telling the story.

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